The 1900 federal census is probably my favorite. It includes a plethora (don't you just love that word?) of information such as the month and year of birth, along with the age. Sometimes it's a good idea to check the math of the census taker. It tells you how many years of marriage, as well as how many children the females have borne, and how many are still living. This will help determine if there have been any stillbirths, or deaths in infancy/childhood.
So now we have our happy couple ... with fewer children. But wait! Who is this Trasey person showing up as John's wife? Was he married to someone else?! Probably not. Trasey ... Theresa ... it's more likely that (1) the enumerator was a terrible speller, or (2) Trasey was a nickname. If you look down the list, you'll notice that the children are the same ... and there's another Trasey. See? A nickname.
The census tells us that Theresa has given birth to 8 children, and 8 are still living. Hmmm. There are only 7 listed on this census. We'll definitely have to investigate that further. I'll put that on my list.
We have an additional child, Katie, who appears to be the oldest now, at age 13. We can see that John and Theresa have been married 14 years. We can deduce that they were probably married in 1886. Also notice that Katie was born in November 1886. Shotgun wedding? The census was taken on June 15, 1900, so John and Theresa would have had to marry before June 15 in 1886, but after June 15, 1885. Obviously, another fact we will need to corroborate, especially with the missing 8th child. I love a good scandal!
I found John on the 1880 federal census, living with his parents Patrick and Katherine, in Yankton County in the Dakota Territory (South Dakota didn't become a state until 1889).
You're probably thinking ... "Wait just a minute! You skipped 20 years there! What about 1890?" Well, the 1980 federal census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC in 1921. Of the roughly 62 million people enumerated in 1890, only about 6,000 records survived. The Veterans and Widows census scheduled survived, and can sometimes be used as a substitute for the lost records.
Ok, back to our census record. John is a 21-year-old living with his parents and siblings. You will also notice an odd name at the bottom ... Georg Meter, age 3, listed as "adopted son." I wonder where he came from. He was born in Dakota, but his parents are from Prussia. Something else to put on my list of facts to check. That list just keeps getting longer and longer ...
The last census record John will appear on is the 1870 census. Apparently, they weren't real big on getting a lot of information in 1870.
The family lived in the town of Kendall, Lafayette Co., Wisconsin. So now we know that at some point between 1870 and 1880, the family moved from Wisconsin to South Dakota. I will have to try to find some state census records in either Wisconsin or South Dakota to try to narrow down the time frame.